ITEN Match Preview: Coventry (H)
Rovers are on a run, kicking off 2020 with three successive wins and three clean sheets. Now up to 9th in the League One table, another win this weekend against promotion-chasing Coventry would be a real statement.
Whilst all the talk through the week is of transfers – or lack thereof – once Saturday rolls around it is all systems go for a side finally getting their groove back under Darren Moore.
Tricky schedule makes home games vital
Fixture woes over the course of the first half of the season means a lop-sided look to Rovers’ remaining games, with a heavy emphasis on playing away. To date the team have played 14 home games out of 23, meaning that 13 of the final 21 League One fixtures will be played on the road, including a daunting five out of six in March. That means the home games become even more important so recent form is helpful to the club’s aim of reaching the Play-Offs.
Manager Darren Moore has no new injury worries after a full week since the 2-0 win at Bristol Rovers, and will be thankful to have Matty Blair and Cameron John available to strengthen an inexperienced bench. There has also been positive news regarding Alex Baptiste’s return to fitness, but the veteran centre half won’t be ready for the squad just yet.
Niall Ennis should continue in attack with no attacking reinforcements materialising in the transfer window yet, but the Wolves loanee has been in good form and scored in his last Keepmoat outing, a welcome confidence boost. Rakish Bingham scored a fine goal off the bench last Saturday so will surely relish another opportunity to impact the game late on if needed.
Sky Blues matching Rovers for momentum
Coventry are in excellent form themselves, now unbeaten through six games in all competitions after seeing off Bristol Rovers midweek in the FA Cup. Mark Robins has his side playing some excellent football and well placed in 4th place, four points better off than Rovers going into the game. Although the Sky Blues may have one eye on their Cup derby clash with Birmingham next week, they will be motivated by the fact that they can end Saturday in the League One automatic promotion places.
Robins also has a near full strength squad to call upon and rotated to good effect in the FA Cup, with stand-in striker Maxime Biamou netting twice. Matt Godden has hat tricks in his last two league away games however and will surely start up front, whilst Callum O’Hare starred in midweek and could start again at the Keepmoat against Rovers, who looked at signing the Aston Villa starlet themselves back in the summer.
There will also be a Rovers return for goalkeeper Marko Marosi, who spent five years at the club and played a major role in last season’s Play-Off run. He left for Coventry afterwards and has had a stellar season with his new club so far, so will be looking to thwart the club who jump-started his career here.
A late goal from Amadou Bakayoko ensured the previous meeting between these sides ended level back in September, as Coventry snatched a draw against a stubborn Rovers rear-guard after Ben Whiteman’s first half opener. Curiously, both sides ended that game in the same league positions they find themselves in now, with the Sky Blues in 4th spot and Rovers in 9th.
Prior to that, Doncaster only lost one of six meetings with Coventry going back to 2013, a 2-1 loss at the Ricoh Arena in October of 2018 with Joe Wright scoring a rare goal. The last time Rovers tasted defeat at home to Coventry was in 2012, when current Sky Blues boss Mark Robins masterminded an emphatic 4-1 win over Dean Saunders’ side with David McGoldrick scoring twice.
Coventry did the double over Rovers that season, the only time they have ever done so, despite the season ending with Rovers as League One Champions. Robins had left the club for Huddersfield by the time of the second game however, having been linked with the managerial role on Lakeside vacated by Saunders’ departure for Wolves in January of 2013.
Attacking midfielder Jordan Shipley is having a very productive season for the club which gave him his start in football, causing problems for numerous defences with his eclectic play off the left hand side of a tight front three. Faced up this weekend by Brad Halliday, Shipley will look to create for Coventry so Halliday and his defensive comrades will have their work cut out for them.
Halliday has shown gradual improvement since the start of his Rovers tenure and is now putting in consistently good performances, improving his awareness, vision and positional sense to aid a superb defensive unit which is now the joint best in the division. If he can keep Shipley quiet it could be another successful day for the Rovers at both ends of the field.